I begin with the division of Gilmore Enterprises that lasted the longest. The company purchased five TV stations, nine AM/FM broadcasters, and dozens of cable systems from its beginnings in the early 60s. The broadcasting business, though, was wound down relatively quickly, selling off its assets one at a time through the 80s and 90s. With one exception. WEHT Logo (ABC years) WEHT in Evansville/Henderson was the second acquisition of Gilmore Broadcasting, having been purchased in 1964. (KODE was the first; the two will very soon be reunited under Nexstar ownership.) Gilmore was responsible for moving the allocation from channel 50 to channel 25 and erecting the taller tower now seen on Marywood Drive in Henderson. It was by far the longest holding for Gilmore Enterprises, 47 years. In all frankness, the ownership of WEHT wasn't all that distinguished in the final decade or two. Viewers have often complained about the news set, which has remained the same since the Great Affiliation Swaps 16 years ago. It is rumored that much of the back-room equipment is similarly dated.

It is this division which is effectively winding down today. I'd like to take a moment to look at the other operations of Gilmore Enterprises through the years.

The department store was run by James's uncle Irving for the majority of his life. It is suggested that James helped clerk at the store, although I suspect he played a larger role than is suggested. Gilmore Brothers' Department Store operated continuously for 114 years in downtown Kalamazoo, but the final 15 years were outside the auspices of the Gilmore family, after Irving Gilmore's death.

The automobile dealerships were centered in Kalamazoo, although the company expanded across the country. Gilmore operated Gilmore Cadillac-Pontiac in Kalamazoo for decades. In 1989, he purchased Anthony Abraham Chevrolet in Miami from its namesake, briefly owning what was billed as "the largest Chevy dealer in the US" at the time. The Florida business was sold to AutoNation in the 90s, and it is not clear to me what happened to the Michigan branch.

(An aside: Gilmore continued to fly a large American flag outside Abraham Chevrolet, not unlike the one that flies to this day outside the studio of WEHT. It would be interesting to see if this was true elsewhere.)

Gilmore ran for two political offices in his life. He won the mayorship of Kalamazoo in the 1958 election, serving a two year term. That term appears to have been fairly unremarkable. He returned to private life and his communications business in 1961. Gilmore was brought back by the Republican Party to run for Congress in 1981, when he was soundly defeated by incumbent congressman Howard Wolpe.

Now, for the achievement that gave Gilmore his greatest national attention: auto racing. According to the Gilmore biography that was presented when he joined the Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame, Gilmore saw his first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in 1966 on an invitation from Citibank. He became enamored with the sport and sponsored his first race car in 1967. James Gilmore with A.J. FoytEarly on Gilmore sponsored some relatively unknown drivers. Late in 1973, a much more famous driver was found, one who would continue racing for many more years: A. J. Foyt himself. Foyt drove for Gilmore Enterprises from 1974 until his retirement as a driver in the early 90s. He won his final Indy 500 as a driver in 1977. It was the only 500 win for Gilmore Enterprises. After retiring, Foyt went on to purchase the racing arm of Gilmore Enterprises, and the business lives on as A. J. Foyt Enterprises, with entries in all the major racing series and some success to show, particularly in IndyCar.

The personal relationship with between Gilmore and Foyt lasted until Gilmore's death, and allowed Gilmore influence in other places. For example, a recent auto auction brought forth the custom Chevrolet Corvette that Gilmore had ordered in 1984. Only one other like it exists, and it is owned by A. J. Foyt.

James S. Gilmore Jr. passed away on December 31, 2000 in an automobile accident.

Photo Credits: Gilmore Portrait: Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame; WEHT Logo: Gilmore Enterprises; Gilmore/Foyt Photo: Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame